Meic Stevens, |
(Y Lolfa, 2004)
Welsh music icon and enfant terrible Meic Stevens presents the first volume of his rollicking and sometimes sad tale of how he, in Stan Rogers' words, "scaled the heights and fell just short of fame," although he does not lack for any fame (or infamy) in his native country of Wales.
Stevens, born in Solva (Solfach), a village in southwest Wales, begins the tale having lost two fathers before he is born: his biological father and the man his mother subsequently married both died in the war. His third (adoptive) father was brutal so he went back to Solva to be raised by his grandparents. By his mid-teens he picked up a guitar and the rest is history.
This is also where the tale really takes off as Stevens moves relentlessly through the wild 1960s up and down the rail corridor from Solva to Cardiff, to London and back again (with occasional side trips to Manchester or Paris).
It is a frightening rollercoaster ride as he learns the trade of musician and songwriter in a multitude of drinking establishments, and starts a family that is eventually shattered by his wife's schizophrenia and other stresses. The pace of the book never slows, which sometimes leads to confusion over the various events and characters, but Stevens paints a vivid picture of these times.
The world he lives in is full of the characters; musicians, posers, hangers-on and ne'er-do-wells that cashed in on the '60s music boom. With the amount of drinking and other substances that are consumed, you wonder how Stevens remembers half the stories he does. You wonder that he is still alive to tell the tale.
Although he fell just short of international fame, it was not musical talent that let him down but personal circumstances. He was signed to Warner Brothers, but does not seem to have done much recording for WB. Eventually Stevens, who wrote music in both English and Welsh, built himself a niche as the godfather of contemporary Welsh music. Today he is respected, even revered among Welsh musicians and has several Welsh CDs available from the Sain label in Caernarfon. His early Welsh songs, such as "Tryweryn" and "Merch o'r Ffatri Wlan," are considered classics.
At the end of this first volume, he's off to Brittany to restart his career. He's not much more than 30. Stevens can tell a good story and hopefully, his second volume will tell more about the emergence of Welsh and Celtic music, and his role in this movement.